Conflict resolution strategy as a tool for performance enhancement in project management
To this end, this paper strives to interrogate the causes and impact of conflicts in projects productivity as well as highlight the intricate balance between conflict resolution mechanisms and project success. Hence, to achieve this end, it would be critical to evaluate the principles of conflict resolution and the applicable strategies when measuring the success and timely completion of a project. The research also acknowledges that effective conflict resolution facilitates seamless team communication and reduces the possibility of resource wastage. In the conclusion, the paper asserts that despite the adverse effects posited by conflicts to a project, designing operative conflict resolution strategies guarantees smooth running of projects and optimal performance. Contents Abstract 2 Acknowledgement 5 Dedication 5 Chapter I 6 Overview 6 Introduction 6 Problem statement 8 Research aims and objectives 8 Research questions 9 Chapter II 9 Literature review 9 Overview 9 Conflict resolution and conflict management 12 Understanding conflict 13 Types of conflicts 14 Conflict life cycle 15 The seven possible causes of a conflict in project management 16 Project priorities 16 Schedules 17 Manpower resources 17 Technical opinions and performance trade-offs 17 Administrative procedures.
In understanding such a concept, the researcher posits a problem statement, research objective and questions that would help to shape the study direction. The chapter seeks to offer the study a constructive background that would guide the other chapters and ensure the researcher remains specific as possible. With such an approach, the researcher would remain as objective as possible towards arriving at an informed conclusion and recommendations. Introduction The fact that the project manager, his team, sponsors and stakeholders to a project have a similar goal notwithstanding, conflict in project management is inevitable. All participants to project management come from different backgrounds and this posits a scenario likely to harbor differences in expectations, values, personalities, needs, perceptions, interests to name a few.
The aspect of planning, monitoring and organizing and correcting project issues enables the project team to achieve set goals and objectives. Creating a workable project environment, keeping such environment healthy, building on a reliable information system and taking control of the execution process serves as an impetus to deliver results (Chen et al. It is plausible to argue that, project goals can only be achieved where managers apply conflict resolution strategies effectively. Management of conflicts is of the essence since it influences the capacity to attain interconnectedness between functional units to a project. It allows project managers to stimulate points of differences within teams and leverage on them by productive conflict resolution strategies, leading to acceptable outcomes. The study would be limited to determining how effective handling styles will enhance performance and smooth running of WebHelp project 2016-2018.
To this end, this paper aims to prove that, as much as conflicts are inevitable in a project management, with the right and effective conflict resolution strategies, optimal performance and smooth operations of a project are guaranteed. Research questions To address the research problem, data was collected with the aim of answering the following study questions: 1. Among the available conflict management style, which is the most feasible mechanism towards the successful delivery of project goals? 2. How can project managers measure the effectiveness of different conflict resolution strategies? Chapter II Literature review Overview The literature review section offers principal insights on the theoretical framework that guides this research. A vast body of research highlight factors that tend to cause conflicts as well as their effect on project development and how to mediate their influences.
Factors such as underestimated project complexity, inaccurate expectations, hostile atmosphere, inadequate budget, unqualified skills and poor participation (Chen, et al. Conflicts between end-users and project management team tend to be inherent especially where the project team fails to factor in the needs, expectations as well as the skillset of the end-users. Lack of process controls and ineffective communication are predictive of requirements uncertainty, which may culminate into project failure. The application of the contingency perspective of conflict goes a long way to explain the positive and negative impacts of conflicts on project success (Kock, et al. The small incremental changes in user requirements during the lifecycle of the project leads to requirements instability. Where the project team indulges in change of a project design beyond the postulates of project charter, they may lead to challenges in usability requirements.
A project that is constantly faced by changes may lead to conflicts between the project manager, his team and stakeholders, and this is because such changes lead to scope creep (Koleczko, 2012). A scenario that presents different stakeholder views on a given issue culminates into requirements diversity. Therefore, the incompatibility of their requirements calls for a strategic and well-reasoned approach to achieve the intricate balance between such interests and project objectives. These positive elements of a conflict and the correlation to project effectiveness, are reliant on the complexity of the project, and well the project manager can handle the same. A moderate degree of conflict is said to produce the positivity’s associated with conflict as opposed to too little or excessive levels of conflicts.
However, it should be noted that the moderate conflict should be handled with care since if it grows beyond manageable levels, it will produce disastrous results. An adverse effect to a project can occur when conflicts to an issue remain persistent without the necessary counterstrategies at place. Persistent conflicts force the project manager to spend most of his time on conflict resolution as opposed to goal attainment and performance. In any case, the project manager and his team can understand real interests, needs, and goals while at the same time inducing ongoing communication around all pertinent issues. Constructive conflict prevails where people delink their personalities from the real problem, and instead focus their efforts towards objectively tackling the real issues, cohesive is of essence during conflict resolutions if at all an amicable solution would be anything to go with.
Poor conflict management would threaten stakeholder support, team cohesiveness and interpersonal connections (Ohlendorf, 2012). Team polarization and low team morale are products of deconstructive conflict, and in such as case, the problem still persists, and energy is spent on non-issues instead of project deliverables. Types of conflicts Any project is characterized by either functional or dysfunctional conflicts and, which side of the divide a project management team falls entirely on the strategies they apply to manage the context. The project manager and his team would be well placed to employ conflict management techniques to solve them. Different behavior, values, and norms predispose normative conflicts, and thus, they result in ethical and moral questions. Businesses are pegged on ethical principles and in any case where conflicts emerge from divergent ethical standards, it is necessary for the project team to reformulate the conflicting issue and change it to conflict of interests (Moura & Teixeira, 2014).
Conflict of relationship are traceable from stakeholder representative’s behavior or personalities. Solving such conflicts calls for mediation by a third party or through negotiations. Manpower resources Often, project management may experience conflicts around the issue of staffing, especially where some participants are sourced from functional and staff support department. The work schedules of the project management and other departments may not work hand in hand, and therefore, the project manager and other departmental heads need to engage one another to resolve the impasse. Technical opinions and performance trade-offs Most project managers, especially in technology-oriented projects, have to rely on other technically independent teams to deliver on the project milestones. These approaches tend to cause disagreements over performance specifications, technical issues, means of achieving performance and technical trade-offs among other issues.
These issues need to be taken care of as soon as they appear and there is need always to set the rules of engagement before conflicts escalate to unmanageable levels Administrative procedures. Different ways of dealing with conflicts Project managers have the opportunity to define the direction to which a project takes. According to Moura and Teixeira (2014), one of such methods is by transforming the conflict into a problem. This stands critical in solving any inherent differences between individuals in the sense that, when the issue is tackled as a problem the scenario remains devoid of any negative attitudes, antagonism or any other form of hostility between the parties involved. A conflict is said to harbor a whole set of antagonism between members of a team, while a problem poses a situation where people are working together to reach a solution (Moura & Teixeira, 2014).
Therefore, parties to a problem tend to identify with the issue at hand and thus they work towards achieving a common ground as opposed to being part of the problem. A project manager applies this mechanism where the two parties to a conflict need to find a level playing ground (Samantara, 2014). The approach creates a win-win scenario built on mutual trust, and both sides can learn from one another, and in the event, acknowledge the needs and expectation of the other party, and work towards fulfilling the same. Compromising The approach entails the need for each party to a conflict to give up something and allow for a solution that meets the larger goal, as opposed to a scenario where one party takes home all the proceeds (Binder, 2017).
This process is suitable where parties are faced with limited time, have hit a deadlock and are keen to maintain the relationship. Smoothing This process involves a total sacrifice of either party to accommodate the interest of the other. Researchers have interrogated the above approaches to project management, and have concluded that the use of different conflict resolution strategies creates a varied degree of the outcome. The persons employing the confronting approach create an environment characterized by a lower level of task conflict, and this results to reduced relationship conflict. On the other hand, people who employ avoiding approach tend to create a platform rich in task conflict, and this culminates into heightened relationship stress and conflict. Therefore, conflict ensues due to the style used by persons responsible as well as environmental circumstances (Ohlendorf, 2012).
The manner in which a project manager handles a conflict influences how others respond, and it would be fashionable to argue that, the approach used is predictive of the project failure or success. All differences traceable from stakeholder relations and expectations should be identified and reconciliations are done early into the project (Binder, 2017). This is critical since unresolved conflicts would always sabotage projects success. Stakeholders by any standards can either be organizations or people, who may either be involved directly with the project work or could be affected in one way or the other by the project’s outcome. Once the project team identifies all stakeholders to the project it makes sense to align each of them to their expectations. Classification of stakeholders takes shape through their expectations based on their power and potential level of influence to the project outcome.
Other cultures may lean toward achieving harmony and balance. Therefore, the underlying nature of the conflict should always dictate which technique to employ. Project managers and their teams are better placed to solve conflicts when they are aware of the reasons for the same. According to Thamhain and Wilemon (2012), the potential origin of conflict includes but not limited to resource conflict, technical conflict, schedule conflict, conflict of priorities, personality conflict, cost conflict, and conflict over the administration. Also, and of concern is how resistance to change and trust motivate human behavior. The project team and the manager must explain to the stakeholders why the change is essential, why the urgency to implement the change and how it would impact the project if not approved.
The change management committee must capture all recommended changes in the change log as well as why change is critical (Huan & Yazdanifard, 2012). The project manager and the leader of change management committee must be apt communicators since it is only through effective communication when trust would come to play. Trust A good relationship between the project team, the manager and the stakeholders set grounds for mutual trust. Understanding the stakeholder expectations is critical, before and during the change management. Individual members to a project define its progression and their perception about a particular aspect, which they are unable to agree is a breeding ground for conflicts. A vast body of research agrees that conflicting work schedules, failure to agree on project goals and a mismatch in project priorities are the primary sources of conflict.
The issue is exacerbated where employees are involved in multiple projects. Most technological projects where project managers rely on the input of others to get work done face interpersonal and personality issue that culminate into conflicts. This is because such teams are cross-functional and tend to be self-directed. Further, this would offer a platform from where all opinions are heard and understood, and as different emotions play out, the project manager can identify and reveal the true nature of the conflict. Collaborate on a solution With the right information pertaining the conflict and its causes, the project manager can engage all parties to the conflict in the resolution process. It is necessary to ensure the concerns of every party s taken into account and addressed without any bias.
Where every person identifies with the solution process, the element of accountability is induced. Chapter 3: Research Methodology Overview In the methodology stage, the paper highlights the research design, sample selection, the instruments for collecting data, tool for data analysis and discusses such findings. The administration made it possible for multiple measures on the five directors who added up as the project managers’ superiors and the functional staff who worked along the project managers to participate as well. Project manager selection The project managers participating in this study were arrived at through requesting the WebHelp five directors to identify the most successful projects and the least successful projects. This classification would help to trace the managers who worked for those projects. The directors were exposed to a list of all projects that WebHelp has ever undertaken, and this was done in turns to avoid repetition.
Therefore, once a director identifies his two projects managers, their names get delisted. The functional employees were traced from the marketing, supplies and logistics and the information technology departments of Webhelp. The selection of functional staff from this departments was facilitated by the director’s joint perception that a high level of conflict existed between project managers and the specific functional departments identified. Instruments employed to measure conflict handling style The researcher designed several tools for measuring and evaluating managers conflict-handling styles. As Rahim (1983), there exist four instruments, which include the Blake and Mouton (1964), Thomas and Kilmann(1974), Lawrence and Lorsch (1967), and Hall (1967). However, the most used instrument of the four by researchers to report conflict handling styles of project managers is the Blake and Mouton instrument.
Figure 3: Adapted from Rahim(1983) Data collection tools This stage of the study was executed through three sets of questionnaires. i) a director questionnaire (ii) project manager’s questionnaire (iii) and a functional staff questionnaire. The Rahim Organizational Conflict Inventory-II was used to develop each of the three questionnaire items. The reasons for choosing this instrument over others was pegged on three reasons, that is; it met the research criterion in the sense that it was used to measure conflict handling styles in project management (superiors, subordinate and peers), the instrument has a better reliability tests compared to others, and last but not the least, it is easy to use and less time consuming to fill-out. The factors that demonstrated highest factor loadings from the Rahim’s instrument were factored in each of the questionnaires, and as such, it is notable that the factor loadings for all the items used in the three surveys had a range 0.
The project manager’s questionnaire was also modified from Rahim’s instrument. Elements such as other project managers, functionals and director replaced peers, subordinates, and boss respectively. Part I and II were the most applicable for this study. Part I sought to understand how the project manager handled conflicts between them and other project managers, directors and functional personnel. Three items were used to measure each of the five styles of handling conflicts. The other five items were captured from Motts questionnaires, and this was instrumental towards measuring the manager's supervisory capabilities. The measure of effectiveness for the ten items that were designed from the two sources dependent on the researcher's opinion. The researcher also sought to understand the functional staff’s opinion on the effectiveness of the managers they worked within a project, and thus, an 11th item was included to measure this aspect.
In essence, the 11th item sought to understand to what extent the functional personnel agreed or disagreed that the project manager was skilled and competent for the job. An 11th item on the part V which meant to measure the behavioral part sought to evaluate the functional staff opinion on the performance of their project team. for all the five styles for evaluating handling of the conflict. The items in the functional questionnaire passed the consistent internal criteria, and their reliabilities for the five conflict-handling styles ranged from 0. to 0. Last and not least, the study recorded reliability levels of 0. and 0. Avoiding 02, 08 13. Functional survey (n=5) Conflict handling styles (part III) Questionnaire items Cronbach’s Alpha Integrating 03, 07, 14 0. Obliging 05, 12, 15 0. Compromising 04, 10 14 0. Dominating 01 06 09 0. Further, all participants to the survey were provided with a pre-addressed envelope to facilitate return of the filled survey.
Data Analysis This study employed a computer system support provided by Webhelp. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences program was used to carry out the data analysis. The data analysis process also employed primary subprograms such as ANOVA, PEARSON CORR, REGRESSION, FREQUENCY and RELIABILITY. Chapter IV. In this case, the project managers indicated integrating as their preferred style of handling conflicts with directors, other managers, and functional staff. The use of other four conflict handling style was dependent on the nature of the relationship. The project managers cited the use of obliging, compromising, avoiding and dominating style as their preferred way of dealing with directors in case of a conflict, and in that order. The project managers also indicated their use of compromising, obliging, avoiding and dominating conflict styles as their preferred order when dealing with other managers.
The functional relationship with project managers followed compromising, obliging, dominating and avoiding as the preferred order when handling conflicts. According to project managers cited the use of integrating, compromising, obliging, avoiding, and dominating as the preferred order when dealing with other project managers. The directors had a varied view since they indicated integrating, dominating, compromising, compromising and avoiding as their preferred order during project manager’s interaction with other managers. Part C of the research question 1, which sought to understand the functional staff view of how project managers handled conflicts when dealing with them. The functional staff were exposed to a 15 items survey in part II of their questionnaire. The results of this survey indicated a point of consensus between the functional staff view and the project managers on how the latter handled conflicts between them.
were categorized as less effective. The 4. marks were deemed to be appropriate to cut off the project managers since it was the mean scored item for item E11. Out of the ten project manager, five were classified as effective and five as less effective. When project managers were asked to self-report on their conflict handling styles with directors, the effective managers gave integrating, obliging, compromising, avoiding and dominating as their preferred order. the conflicting styles served as the dependent variable while the effectiveness of project managers added up as the independent variables. Each of the three relationships and for the two categories was tested through the following null hypothesis; H0: the effective and less effective project managers used the same conflict handling styles for all the three relationships Ha: The difference in the use of a particular style by a project manager in any of the three relationships was statistically significant.
The null hypothesis was accepted for all the three relationships and both categories had a significance level of. the results are captured below Therefore, and according to the results of the research, for either of the categories whether using the functional and director’s criteria, the project managers self-reported use of a particular conflict management style was the same, regardless of whether they were deemed effective or less effective. Research question 3 What are the director's perception on the use of conflict handling style by effective and less effective project managers, when interacting with them and other project managers? In this case, project managers were requested to make an evaluation of how they believed project managers handled conflicts when dealing with them and other departmental managers.
Two null hypothesis was constructed by the researcher to analyze variance on the conflict handling styles used by the project manager and as perceived by directors. The conflict handling styles were treated as the dependent variable while the independent variable was project manager’s effectiveness. Ho: the use of a particular conflict handling styles for the two relationships had no difference for both effective and less effective managers (as per director’s perception). Ha: The use of a particular style for the two relationships by effective and less effective managers had a difference that was statistically significant. The null hypothesis for the obliging style was not rejected since it had poor internal consistency. Obliging -. Compromising -. Dominating. Avoiding. There was a stronger correlation between process scale and outcome scale than in the conflict handling style.
The null hypothesis for the relationship was tested as below Ho: the effective and less effective project managers had no differences in their use of a particular style. Ha: the difference between use of a particular style by effective and less effective managers was statistically significant. At a significance level of. the null hypothesis was rejected for all the five conflict styles for the relationship between functional personnel and project managers. The results were indicative of the fact that, the functional staff held the view that there exists a difference in the way project managers resolved conflicts when dealing with them. Also, the avoiding and dominating styles were representative of a negative relationship, with avoiding being insignificant at P<. Further, there was a relationship in a scenario where effective project managers used integrating, compromising, and obliging style had less possibility of using avoiding and dominating styles.
Discussion The four research questions in this study were used to make some conclusions. However, other studies as captured in the literature review offered insights on the most plausible mechanisms applicable in the project management environment. The study sought to interrogate project manager’s perception on the use of conflict handling style when interacting with directors, other departmental managers, and functional staff. The results of functionals view of how project managers use conflict handling styles with them depicted a scenario where the effective managers used integrating mechanism more frequently compared to less effective project managers. The correlation analysis was indicative of the existence of a strong and positive link between process effectiveness and conflict handling styles. The level of effectiveness traced its support from integrating, compromising and obliging styles.
Further, a negative correlation in instances where avoiding and dominating styles were used ( P<. no significance). The managers should strive to identify the causes of the conflict, and learn when to use a particular conflict resolution style. However, flexibility is critical in any conflict scenario since managers can find it feasible to use more than one style. Managers should not shy away from conflicts since facing them head-on and with the required speed helps them to create a framework for all teams to engage in a constructive way, and this guarantees better project outcomes. The research indicates that integrating is the most feasible method of conflict handling style, and most effective project managers use the same when dealing with directors, other departmental managers and functional staff.
The other four approaches come in as a secondary approach depending on the nature of conflict, and this only happens after trying out the integrating approach. Crawford, L. Ward, S. Fundamental uncertainties in projects and the scope of project management. International Journal of Project Management, Volume 14, p. Binder, J. International Journal of Project Management, Volume 29, pp. Howell, S. Conflict Management: A Literature Review and Study. Online] Available at: http://www. ahra. Koleczko, K. Risk and Uncertainty in Project Management Decision-making. Online] Available at: https://epublications. bond. edu. Affective choice of conflict management styles. International Journal of Conflict Management Styles, 23(1), pp. Moura, H. Teixeira, J. Managing Stakeholders Conflicts. Conflict Resolution in Project Management. Online] Available at: https://www. umsl. edu/~sauterv/analysis/488_f01_papers/Ohlendorf.
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